Travel professionals get this question a lot: “Should I visit the French OR Italian Riviera? I don’t have time for both.”
Well, both are beautiful and glamorous. Both have delicious cuisine (Salade Niçoise vs. Fresh Pasta with Ligurian Basil Pesto). Both have scrumptious local wine (rosés in France vs. white wines from Vermentino grapes in Italy). And the beaches …
If you were filling out a pro and con list, the page(s) would be full, and the score would undoubtedly be tied. It’s simply too difficult to choose, and it can be impossible to traverse the region efficiently without renting a car – which can certainly cut into that local wine consumption.
Small ship cruising often solves travel conundrums, and we can think of a few problematic travel scenarios that are more perfectly addressed with a single solution: our Glitter & Glam of the Rivieras itinerary tackles this question with a tightly curated seven day cruise voyage from Rome to Barcelona (and reverse), April through October, sailing through the French AND Italian Rivieras. So the answer to “Which Riviera?” is a resounding “Visit Both!”
Here are a few of our favorite highlights along this glittering voyage:
Barcelona is always an incredible city to visit for the architecture, but 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the death of Antoni Gaudí, whose famous Sagrada Família Cathedral finally has an end date to its more than 100-year construction phase – scheduled for 2026. Look for celebrations of this masterful architect around the city this year, as well as unique exhibitions and walking tours.
Typical seaside pursuits abound in this mashup of a French and Spanish fishing village, including deep sea fishing, SCUBA diving, canoeing, and lazy days on the beach. For a bit of extra culture and eye candy, we also like to explore nearby Collioure, where Matisse and Derain lived and painted.
From Sanary-sur-Mer, it’s just a quick drive to nearby St. Tropez for a guided walking tour through the bright waterfront destination, followed by lunch and further exploration of the French Riviera. We recommend dining at La Pesquiere for a local’s-only feel and the best calamari of our lives.
An insider tip (shhhhh) is that Windstar docks in Cannes on the Glitter & Glam of the Rivieras itinerary during the storied Cannes Film Festival, which is May 11-22. Some serious star spotting will be in order …
There’s more to Monte Carlo than the Grand Prix (although that is another favorite sailing of ours). Fancy cars zoom through the streets year-round, and high end shopping (or at least window shopping) is a sport. A visit to the Grand Casino is certainly not to be missed for the people watching alone, even if you don’t gamble a chip. The harbor, filled with multi-million dollar mega-yachts, is the perfect home for a Windstar yacht and easy exploration and access to this playground for the rich and famous.
Portofino is the site of Windstar’s Private Event on this sailing, treating guests to the Beloved Villa Durazzo, Pesto Demo & Tastings. Guests are ferried to charming Santa Margherita Ligure with its rich villas and grand hotels creating a magical reflection around the bay. Strolling through Italian gardens while listening to local musicians and drinking in the view of the Tigulio Gulf (and Italian wines), you may forget your Windstar yacht isn’t actually yours technically. Then it’s on to a tour through the villa and its artwork and a pesto-making class from a local chef. After all, they DID invent pesto here, so do as the locals and eat up.
Like Napoleon Bonaparte, we could be exiled in lovely Portoferraio on Elba Island, if we just had access to the island’s gelaterias every day. Seriously, this is the best gelato in all of Italy, as our well-traveled crew can attest. Don’t be afraid to try perfectly unusual flavors, like ricotta with caramelized figs.
We love that this itinerary begins and ends in some of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s the perfect complement to all the smaller villages and outposts on the Rivieras. Rome doesn’t disappoint, so whether guests are simply jetting through on their way to the airport for the flight home or extending their trip with a visit to the Pope, Windstar is able to arrange for either scenario.
Have you ever experienced the French Riviera or Italian Riviera? Did you have a favorite? Tell us in the comments!